by Ronda Payne/Special to the Langley Advance
Thunderbird Show Park, or tbird as it’s more commonly known, is nothing if not family-oriented.
The late George and Dianne Tidball founded tbird 45 years ago and brought their own family into the fold of owning and operating a world-class equestrian facility.
Yet, that world-class status was always paired with delighting visitors of all ages for a truly family-friendly experience.
This year’s June 3 Longines FEI Nations Cup Jumping of Canada is no different.
The Tidball’s daughter, Jane, is president and tournament director of the park today, and she continues with the legacy of welcoming everyone to enjoy watching horse and rider teams – from Olympic-calibre competitors to the up-and-coming pony riders.
“My brother and my two sisters and I, we are the board of directors,” Tidball explained of the depth of family involvement.
“It’s the legacy of George and Diane Tidball. We plan to be here in the next generations of Tidballs and the next generation of riders,” she said.
While show jumping is the prime activity on-site at tbird during this weekend’s Nations Cup, there will be plenty for families to see and do beyond watching the competition.
“We’ve got facepainting, and have organized some games,” Tidball said. “And there’s pony rides, music, and food trucks all on site.”
Plus admission to tbird is free with only a “per-car” charge for parking that is donated through the George and Dianne Tidball Legacy Foundation to charity.
The team at tbird hopes to encourage carpooling and support various causes this way. Additionally, anyone with a BCAA membership card will receive free parking.
Picnicking is always welcome at tbird, whether a family prefers to buy food on site from one of the restaurants or food trucks, or brings their own.
The Bale and Bucket, for instance, offers unique and flavourful healthy organic options in meals while the Cantor Inn offers up home-style grill favourites like burgers and fries.
With an expanse of lawns, visitors are welcome to spread their blanket near the jumping rings and enjoy their food while watching 1,500-pound animals clear 1.5- and 1.6-metre jumps seemingly effortlessly.
Watching the power of the horses is a treat for guests of any age, Tidball said.
Walking around the site, it also includes the new on-site vendor cabins that offer a range of products and services including everything from tack and gear to dog grooming to custom tbird merchandise.
Plus the on-site beer garden is available for those who want to tip a pint in honour of their favourite competing country.
The June 3 Nations Cup is the type of event where families can choose what their experience will look like because of the affordability and flexibility in attending.
While some guests will prefer to stay put in one spot, others may move around taking in the view from various bleachers and grassy areas.
Or, for those looking to feel immersed in the horse jumping culture, there is the opportunity to watch horses as they walk around the site and get to know grooms, handlers, and riders.
“They are such gorgeous animals,” Tidball said of the horses. “We want to preserve this sport. When I took this job, that was why, the legacy.”
Families are invited to experience the legacy of horse jumping first-hand at tbird for this weekend’s Nations Cup.